Federal PFAS action continues The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week sent two proposed rules about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The first proposal would be an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would allow public input for adding PFAS compounds to the federal Toxics Release Inventory . The second would require that EPA be notified before certain long-chain PFAS compounds are imported into the U.S. so that the agency could review them under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is in recess until Oct. 15, but staff from the House and Senate are continuing work to produce a single annual national defense authorizatio n bill for fiscal year 2020. Most significantly for the water community, the House passed a defense bill that would have EPA declare all PFAS substances as hazardous under the Comprehensive Environmental Response , Compensation and Liability Act , or Superfund. The Senate passed a bill that would have EPA issue a national drinking water regulation within two years for the two PFAS compounds of most concern, PFOA and PFOS. One compromise being floated is to mandate a hazardous substance designation just for PFOA and PFOS. However, this would still make water utilities vulnerable to legal actions under Superfund from contaminated biosolids, drinking water treatment plant residuals applied to land, or waters injected into deep wells. Interestingly, some environmental groups and Democratic members of Congress do not want to force EPA to issue a drinking water regulation for PF AS now. They are concerned that the current presidential administration will set a high maximum contaminant level for such chemicals, particularly under an accelerated time frame. Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut race to manage PFAS At Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s direction, Connecticut has drafted an action plan for PFAS in less than seven months. The PFAS Task Force recommendations were posted for public comment this week for a 15-day period. Connecticut anticipates finalizing the plan in November. While the draft plan includes monitoring at vulnerable water systems, it emphasizes managing exposure through other media, such as aqueous firefighting foam, and remediation of contaminated sites. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has directed the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to analyze the prevalence of PFAS in Ohio’s drinking water. OEPA and ODH are to develop an action plan by Dec. 1, according to last week’s announcement. The plan is to include testing public and private water systems that are near known sources of PFAS, such as firefighting training sites and manufacturing facilities. The agencies are also to develop a strategy to work with communities and private well owners on appropriate response measures if high levels of PFAS are found. Last week, Michigan’s PFAS Action Response Team recommended that the state set maximum contaminant level goals for seven compounds : perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) (6-ppt); perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) (8-ppt); perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) (16-ppt); perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) (51-ppt); GenX (370-ppt); perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) (420-ppt); perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) (400,000-ppt). The rulemaking comment period is ex pected to begin in December. Advocacy efforts continue to urge both lower concentrations for MCLs and the setting of a group limit. Michigan’s goal is to have an enforceable standard in place by April 2020. WRF researchers explain PFAS to congressional staff The Water Research Foundation (WRF) filled the House Environment and Public Works Committee hearing room to capacity with a PFAS briefing last week. WRF Chief Executive Officer Peter Grevatt moderated the briefing, co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., chair and ranking minority member of the House subcommittee with direct jurisdiction over drinking water. Dr. Carla A. Ng of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Charles B. Bott of Hampton Roads Sanitation District, Va., led congressional staff through the chemistry of PFAS and why these substances are such a difficult environmental exposure to address. AWWA, multiple agencies sign lead agreement with EPA AWWA, EPA and a host of other organizations signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday titled “Reducing Lead Levels in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities.” Others signing the agreement included the federal departments of agriculture, education, and health and human services, as well as the American School Health Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, National Association of Water Companies, National Rural Water Association and Rural Community Assistance Partnership. Tribal organizations Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. and United South and Eastern Tribes also signed the agreement. The signatory organizations will collaborate to reduce children’s exposure to lead from drinking water at schools and child care facilities. AWWA offers resources to help water systems engage schools and child care facilities in their services areas. Consumer Reports article compares tap water to bottled water A wide-ranging Consumer Reports article, which appears in the magazine’s November 2019 edition, compares the safety and quality of tap water to bottled water. The article (only available to Consumer Reports subscribers) cites instances of contaminated tap water as well as contaminated bottled water. It states, 'even as bottled water sales have risen, tap water quality overall doesn’t appear to be getting worse. Since 2013, the percentage of the U.S. population serviced by community water systems with at least one reportable health-based quality violation has stayed below 10 percent, according to the most recent data from EPA, which regulates tap water. These systems provide water to more than 90 percent of Americans, according to the EPA. ‘The United States provides some of the safest drinking water in the world,’ an agency spokesperson says.’” The article also cites statistics of bottled water being the 'No. 1 beverage, with the average American consuming 42 gallons in 2018,' and 'Forty percent of Americans believe bottled water is safer than tap, according to a nationally representative 2019 Consumer Reports survey of 4,225 U.S. adults.' Consumer Reports states that advocates believe the 'long-term solution isn't for more Americans to turn to bottled water, but to fix the nation's water infrastructure.' Deadline for final perchlorate rule extended In a filing this week, EPA told a U.S. district court in New York that it and the Natural Resources Defense Council had agreed upon a six-month extension for the agency to issue a final drinking water regulation for perchlorate, pushing the deadline to June 19, 2020. This is largely the result of a deadline extension granted to EPA for promulgating the proposed rule, given delays with the peer-review process and last year’s government shutdown. This gives EPA more time to review comments on the four options in the proposed rule – MCLs of 18 ppb, 56 ppb, 90 ppb or withdrawal of the 2011 regulatory determination. In EPA’s analysis of the proposed MCLs, it concluded that none, including the preferred MCL of 56 ppb, would ‘‘maximize health risk reduction benefits at a cost that is justified.” Expect increased oversight of public notifications In a recently released report , the EPA inspector general found that some states do not have the necessary procedures in place to track and enforce the federal public notification rule and monitor violations. Findings concluded that EPA’s data systems make tracking compliance with the rule difficult, and that some EPA guidance documents are out of date and do not reflect modern practices, such as electronic means for delivery of notices to customers. Consequently, utilities should expect increased focus by states and EPA on how public notifications are carried out. The report assessed how state primacy agencies and EPA oversee utility notices to the public under the public notification rule. As is common for this style of report, there is a strong focus on areas that do not appe ar to be meeting the intent of the regulations and underlying law. DOE backs utilities in challenging FCC 6 Ghz proposal The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supporting concerns by AWWA and other radio spectrum users on a FCC proposal to open the 6Ghz band to unlicensed users. Water and electric utilities often use this spectrum for mission-critical process control communications. The DOE said that the FCC had not adequately demonstrated that communications of incumbent licensed users could be protected from interference. A letter from Bruce Walker, assistant secretary in the Office of Electricity, states, “America's energy and water industries do not currently have any cost effective, readily achievable alternatives to the 6GHz band if the FCC process with the existing proposal and damaging signal interference is realized.” DOE has formally requested that the FCC “consider the use of other spectrum bands (outside of the 6GHz) that could be utilized to increase public WiFi capabilities and not risk interference and thus the reliability to our Nation's power and water industries.” EPA announces first WIFIA loan in New England EPA has announced the first-ever loan in New England under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. A $269 million loan was granted to the Narragansett Bay Commission to help fund a combined sewer overflow project. The project will encompass a deep rock tunnel, two work shafts, four drop shafts, a tunnel pump station and improvements to the wastewater collection system. Other funding for the project will come from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank through co-funding with the Rhode Island Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, and other programs. The WIFIA program has now issued 12 loans totaling more than $3 billion to help finance more than $7 billion in water infrastructure projects and consequently create more than 12,000 jobs, according to EPA. Grant announced for desalination hub The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the National Alliance for Water Innovation a five-year, $100-million Energy-Water Desalination Hub grant. The alliance is led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, also a part of the Department of Energy. The grant is dependent upon Congressional appropriations. The Hub will focus on early-stage research and development for energy-efficient and cost-competitive desalination technologies and on treating nontraditional water sources for various uses. Once the grant is underway, the first task is to prioritize the highest impact technology options. The team, made up of more than 30 participating organizations, will then identify and solicit projects to support those priorities.